It was politics that triggered the only time I got mad with my good friend Phil. I hadn’t got angry when, as my best man, he picked me up in his brother’s Lotus sports car and drove like a maniac down narrow lanes at what felt like 100mph, in the opposite direction to the church. Mind you, that was because I was concentrating so hard on not soiling my best suit trousers at the time!
No, the one and only time when I did get angry with Phil was a couple of weeks after an election. We got talking about the result and he made a joke about the new government, so I assumed he hadn’t voted for them.
‘You’re right, I didn’t vote for them – or anyone else for that matter,’ he said emphatically. Knowing he had passionate views on justice, Fairtrade and equality issues, which were informed by his strong Christian faith, I was surprised.
Then Phil said something that made me see red. He told me in no uncertain terms that he had never voted in any election and he didn’t expect he ever would.
I hit the roof. Like Victor Meldrew on speed I ranted and raved, telling him people in other countries were dying, literally being tortured and killed, to try to win the right to democratically choose their leaders. I told him that a previous generation had suffered to maintain freedom from the evil tyranny of Nazi dictatorship spreading to our island nation. I quoted scripture, I quoted Churchill… I went on and on and on.
I didn’t convince Phil. He, like growing numbers since, figured voting was a waste of time, that most politicians were in it for money, ego or other selfish motives and that it didn’t make much different which ‘lot’ were in anyway.
Years after my row, thanks to the expenses scandal, the Iraq inquiry and scores of other stories, there are more ‘Phils’ than ever. With so many obvious flaws – not least in the not very fair ‘first past the post’ election of MPs, it isn’t difficult to list the reasons why the British political system is deeply flawed.
But whether you are a Phil or not, I hope that the first of a three-part series will inform, encourage and engage you with some of the key issues around which this election will be fought. Cynicism is not a fruit of the Holy Spirit – so I encourage you to prayerfully engage with the political process and exercise your hard-won right to vote. I also want you to consider joining a political party. Why? Because the number of people that attend a church this Sunday will be more than double the number of members of all of the political parties put together. I hope Ruth Dickinson’s feature and that stunning statistic makes you think again about the opportunity you and I have to bring change, salt and light into politics.
It’s 20 years since I had my only row with Phil and I am older, [much!] greyer and hopefully a little wiser. I still get passionate about Christians who can’t be bothered to vote, although hopefully I am more understanding of their reasons.
If you are going to vote, Premier Christian Radio invite you to indicate that fact online at: promisetovote.com – so that this fact can be presented to the speaker and members of parliament. But it’s up to you. Thankfully, you’ve got the freedom to choose.